Then and now: Youth activism in DLSU

Hundreds of issues, controversies, and scandals alike trigger mixed reactions from different kinds of people. The undergraduate college students, in particular, have brought about new knowledge, fresh learnings, and cognizant beliefs that are extensively formed from their classes.

Like other universities, DLSU has continually been active in taking part in national efforts for pressing issues and causes. Recently, DLSU also participated in rallies and joint efforts that opposed the highly controversial burial of the late president turned dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the esteemed cemetery, the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB). Looking back through the archives reveals that DLSU has always maintained a presence of youth activism.


Getting into the scene

Rallies erupted as early as the 1950s, wherein the first incidence of student activism was reported in protest to the United States’ intervention even after the Philippines was free from dependence on the former. DLSU, which was known as De La Salle College back then, was among the sectarian schools alongside Ateneo de Manila to participate in the nation’s calling.

One of the early subjects of rallies that transpired from the students of La Salle was about the dominance of foreigners in the administration of De La Salle College. The situation was a “prevalence of the affluent on campus,” the catechization of the American administration as to why they were put in position when it should have been pure-bred Filipinos.

The tuition fee increase also caused quite a stir among the then-called Lasallites, which transpired during the academic year 1970-1971. Seeing the academic hike, Student Council leader Francis Estrada stood up against it, a move that was unfortunately dismissed since the students ended up paying the regular fee of tuition that was still “under protest.”

On another note, what was once a peaceful Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) triggered an uproar among students. This was due to the cadets’ dissatisfaction of the NROTC system and their exhibition of protest against the hazing of Shore Patrol trainees by probationary officers. Consequently, the movement was sanctioned by the Student Council wherein demands such as the scraping of the NROTC drill system, the removal of the haircut and uniform inspection, and the dismissal of officers’ ranks who abused their power and responsibility were made by the group.


Since the martial law era, youth activism has been present in many colleges. In DLSU, it has eventually evolved such that even the administration was involved in recent rallies and protests.
Since the martial law era, youth activism has been present in many colleges. In DLSU, it has eventually evolved such that even the administration was involved in recent rallies and protests.


The Marcos regime

The declaration of Martial Law in 1972 entailed a bloody political turmoil in Philippine society that lasted for almost a decade. The government was heavily criticized for its human rights violations, especially by the individuals and groups that showed intentions of starting a revolution and ousting the president from power.

In 1986, DLSU supported the ousters of Marcos as a response to then-presidential contender Cory Aquino’s “seven-point program” that called for the sustainment of protests against Marcos, and the boycott of “crony press” and “crony-controlled establishments”, among others. Ultimately, this played a part in the toppling of the Marcos regime and the restoration of democracy. A total of 500 students and faculty members participated in an anti-government rally in February of 1986.

During this time, DLSU was recognized as “the first organized institution to show support for civil disobedience after Aquino’s victory rally.” From this, La Salle student leaders pledged to advocate and devise “civil disobedience” initiatives that would help involve students in this pressing issue.

Apart from this, Lasallians continued to participate in various efforts that revolved around events in 1986, particularly in support of Aquino’s bid for presidency. 700 volunteers from DLSU assisted The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections in monitoring 110 precincts. Lasallians also joined in the barricade of Camp Aguinaldo “following the break-away of Enrile and Ramos from the Marcos government.” Advocating for a clean election, Lasallians also engaged in an anti-fraud and anti-terrorism march, a multi-sectoral mobilization of 1,000 people.

To culminate these events, DLSU also sent its own delegation to a rally with an estimated crowd of 250,000 in support of Aquino. La Salle had sent its own contingent, which was spearheaded by the Student Council and the La Salle Students for Democratic Action, to the rally. According to them, what made them join the rally was then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile allowing the military to further its acts of repression.

It was not until November 2016 that Lasallians once again took a stand against the Marcos clan, specifically the burial of the late president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos. They were joined by other universities like the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University through noise barrages and marches. The University Student Government, alongside the administration, led the disclosure of activities that stood against the Supreme Court’s historic 9-5 vote ruling in favor of the Marcos burial in the LNMB.

Among DLSU’s movements against the event included the statement released by De La Salle Philippines President Br. Jose Marie Jimenez FSC last November 10, a candle-lighting ceremony, a series of noise barrages which started on the evening of November 24, and the anti-Marcos burial rally which transpired last December 22.

Stands and statements were also made in public by the Office of the Vice President for Lasallian Mission. To date, the office continually encourages the student body to participate in polls that are vital to the creation of laws. For instance, the most recent is the poll on lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility from 15 to 9 years old. The controversial bill was initially proposed in the House of Representatives last year.

Up to this day, protests are being held to rally for the belief of righteousness, the search for democracy, and the hunt for truth. Educational institutions are mere witnesses to these kinds of dissent. While the new generation of “upsetters” are influenced through education to rally their stands against critical issues today, they are also influenced by their unique exposure to social media. The current state enjoyed by all Filipinos is the tangible testimony which proves that someone did fight for what everyone is enjoying now.

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